Over the last 20 years, there’s been a lot of confusion about what a liberal is and what a liberal stands for. Well, we’re in a shooting war now, and because of that, I think it’s important to make clear the principles on which liberalism is based – after all, better than 50 percent of the American people voted for liberal Al Gore , and I think the world ought to know just what the better half of this country stands for. This week, it’s foreign policy. Soon, I’ll address domestic affairs. I’m now going to be blunt and make no apologies. I’m proud to be a liberal, because I think it’s the face of America that the world needs to see.
Number One: I despise tyrants, oligarchs, dictators, absolute monarchies and militarists. I despise any government, any society, any person who, to quote Abraham Lincoln, says to any of its people, “You toil and work and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” I stand with Thomas Jefferson when he said, “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” I stand with Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.” You see, I’m an American liberal and proud of it.
Number Two: I denounce anyone who, in the name of cultural relativism, will try to convince me that it’s somehow “OK” to force a woman to wear a burkha, beg on the street or settle for second-class citizenship anywhere, anytime. And I denounce those who say that I’m somehow being “judgmental” when I declare that every woman everywhere has the right to decent health care, a decent job, a decent education, driver’s license and the right to make any damn choice she wants consistent with civil decency. I don’t care how old, or hallowed, or sacred the society is that promotes the oppression of women; if it does, then I’m against it. I don’t care if some right-wing pooh-bah tells me to lighten up because they’re our “allies” or somebody else tells me to be “more understanding.” Sexism is wrong, and in some places, it’s plain murder. You see, I’m an American liberal and I make no apologies.
Number Three: I denounce anyone who, by calling me “Eurocentric” somehow justifies or ignores the killing and oppression of gays, racial, religious and cultural minorities. I denounce slave dealers of any race and I don’t care which god, dictator, cleric or prophet they claim to speak for. If being Eurocentric means I’m for protecting the rights of minorities everywhere, then I’m Eurocentric and proud of it. Because I’m an American liberal, and proud of it.
I’m for calling things by their right name. Murder is murder and murder is wrong – whether in a soccer stadium in Kabul, a disco in Tel Aviv or a street somewhere in Gaza. Yes, it’s wrong even in a death chamber in Texas. Dictatorship is tyranny and tyranny is evil, whether it’s in places that we don’t like, such as Iraq, or in places that are supposed to be friendly, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. I do believe that evil exists. There is no “other side” worthy of being called a friend that murders civilians, sells human beings into bondage, governs by heredity or rules by race or gender. It’s evil – period – and I’m going to use the word and call it what it is. Because calling things by their right name is what a proud American liberal does.
The legacies of the Romans were roads and aqueducts, and the legacies of the Egyptians were pyramids and the Temples of Luxor. I want America’s legacy to be justice. No excuses about protecting patent rights if that means denying the millions of African AIDS victims a chance for life; no secret tribunals in Baghdad and none in Washington; no one standard of justice for white, middle-class females and another standard for Saudi women, just because it’s somehow “their culture.” No terrorism by Israel and none by Palestinians. No slaves in the Sudan and none among migratory workers in parts of this country.
People say I’m a dreamer. I say these injustices persist because we tolerate them. Slavery existed in this country until Americans, black and white decided to end it. Then it stopped. I say the injustices in this world will continue until we decide they should stop. As a liberal, I’m going to yell, “Stop!” every day for the rest of my life. I don’t care whose ears it hurts or who may be offended or who might try to convince me violence, oppression and exploitation that is wrong for “us” is somehow “OK” for them because “they” come from a different place. I stand with Lincoln, Jefferson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Because I’m an American liberal. Who are you?